FCC makes wireless data roaming mandatory

fcc-julius-Genachowski-wireless-data-roamingThe Federal Communications Commission voted today to adopt new data roaming rules that will allow smartphones to access wireless Internet networks nationwide, in areas not covered by the users’ wireless provider. The functionality would be similar to roaming related to voice and text messaging.

The 3-2 vote, which was held this morning during the FCC’s monthly public meeting, requires large wireless companies like Verizon Wireless and AT&T to offer customers “reasonable” roaming rates.

“Mobile providers must be able to offer nationwide voice and data plans to have any chance of competing in today’s market,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. He added that wireless carrier do not currently offer roaming deals “on commercially reasonable terms.”

The new rules were pushed forward by petitions filed with the FCC by smaller wireless carriers, like Sprint Nextel, Leap Wireless and MetroPCS, all of whom argue that Verizon and AT&T’s reluctance to offer roaming access to their 3G and 4G networks hurts their ability to compete. These carriers hope the data roaming rules will increase their ability to offer competitive services to customers.

Rules to increase competition have taken on new weight in the wireless industry with AT&T’s planned $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA. If approved, the AT&T/T-Mobile deal will concentrate 80 percent of wireless customers under only two carriers — AT&T/T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.

The new rules will allow for each wireless company to negotiate their own data roaming deals with AT&T and Verizon. They also allow for the companies to make arrangements to prevent data congestion in high-use areas.

“By adopting a ‘commercially reasonable’ standard for data roaming offers, we give carriers flexibility to tailor agreements to different environments and to account for concerns regarding congestion and technical compatibility,” said Genachowski in a statement.

AT&T and Verizon have both opposed the new rules, arguing that they not only already have sufficient data roaming deals worked out with smaller providers, but that the FCC doesn’t have the authority to impose such rules upon the industry due to the way the wireless Internet is categorized — a point that Republican Commissioners Robert McDowell and Meredith Attwell Baker agree with, causing them to vote against their Democratic counterparts on the matter.

“A data-roaming mandate is unwarranted and will discourage investment,” Robert Quinn, AT&T chief privacy officer and senior vice president of federal regulatory, told Bloomberg in an e-mail today. “Proponents of a roaming mandate were seeking government intervention, not to obtain agreements — which are plentiful — but rather to regulate rates downward.”

“Verizon is not anti-roaming,” Tamara Priess, vice president of federal regulatory affairs for Verizon, told CNet. “We’re anti-regulated roaming.”

The rules are a step forward for President Obama’s National Broadband Plan, which seeks to offer high-speed wireless Internet access nationwide.

Product Review

Dolby makes the most comfortable headphones ever, and that's only the start

Dolby has taken its first step into product design with the new Dolby Dimension wireless headphones. Offering tons of features, supreme comfort, and a shocking price tag, the Dimension are a unique new take on audio in the home, and out.
Smart Home

New wireless power kit puts a charge into your smart speakers via infrared light

Wireless power technology is coming fast, and Wi-Charge is leading the innovative trend with a new wireless power kit that can transform Amazon and Google smart speakers into fully functional, wire-free devices.
Home Theater

A recent Twitter leak may show the upcoming AirPods 2 model

Apple plans to release new AirPods much the same as it does new iPhones, and a wireless charging case, water resistance, and better Siri integration are among the improvements we can expect in future models.

The best iPhone deals for November 2018

Apple devices can get expensive, but if you just can't live without iOS, don't despair: We've curated an up-to-date list of all of the absolute best iPhone deals available for November 2018.

Uber rolls out rewards program that lets its most loyal riders lock in prices

Uber launched a new loyalty program today called Uber Rewards. It offers frequent riders credits to Uber Eats, car upgrades, and the ability to lock in prices on their most traveled routes.

15 tips for keeping your vault-dwellers alive in ‘Fallout Shelter’

The wasteland can be an unfriendly place, if you don't know what you're doing. Here are 15 tips that will help your vault thrive in Fallout Shelter, including information on questing.

Motorola Moto G7: Here’s everything we know

The Moto G6 range is still relatively new to the market, but rumors have already started about the Moto G7, which is expected some time in 2019. Apparently, a G7 Power version will be joining the G7, G7 Play, and G7 Plus.

T-Mobile's new Revvl 2, Revvl 2 Plus are now available for purchase

Last year, T-Mobile launched its own line of branded smartphones. As a follow-up to their predecessors, the carrier has unveiled the Revvl 2 and Revvl 2 Plus -- complete with a sleeker design. Here's everything you need to know.

How to take great photos with the Pixel 3, the best camera phone around

You’ve scored yourself a new Google Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL, and you want to take advantage of that incredible camera. We’ve got everything you need to know right here about how to snap the best photos with your Pixel 3.

Google's Wear OS update 'H' promises battery life improvements

Google has rebranded its Android Wear operating system to Wear OS. Removing the Android name may help people better understand Google-powered smartwatches, which also play nice with iOS devices. 
Smart Home

Huawei could soon take on Google and Amazon with a new digital assistant

According to a report from CNBC, Huawei is working on a new digital assistant that could try to take on the likes of Google and Amazon's Alexa. Huawei already has a digital assistant in China, but the new one will be aimed at markets…

Leak shows a third, budget Google Pixel 3 with a Snapdragon 670, headphone jack

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are considered to be two of the best Android smartphones, but it looks like Google could be prepping a third. A budget Pixel 3 device that boasts some of the best features of the other two has been leaked.

Use multiple phone numbers on one device with Verizon’s ‘My Numbers’ app

For those who have separate phone numbers and devices for your work and personal lives, Verizon wants to help you get more organized. With its new "My Numbers" app, you can use up to four additional phone numbers on a single smartphone.
Smart Home

All the best Amazon Black Friday deals for 2018

Amazon may be an online-only retailer, but that doesn’t mean its Black Friday sales are anything to sniff at. In fact, due to its online status, Amazon has huge flexibility with the range of products and deals it can offer. Here's our…